Centocor Inc. announced late Tuesday that Eli Lilly and Co. hasexercised its option to be the worldwide distributor of CentoRx,Centocor's cardiovascular agent.

The long-awaited announcement comes almost three weeksafter David Holveck, Centocor's president and chief executiveofficer, was quoted as saying that the two companies were justdays away from formalizing their sales and distribution rightsfor the drug.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will have worldwidemarketing and distribution rights to CentoRx; it will also assistCentocor (NASDAQ:CNTO) of Malvern, Pa., in the regulatoryfilings and continued development of CentoRx for variousclinical indications.

Lilly acquired the rights to CentoRx last July as part of its $100million capital infusion into Centocor. In fact, Lilly was toacquire those rights for no additional money if Centocor'sflagship product for treating septic shock, HA-1A, didn'treceive marketing approval by the end of this year. Since then,Centocor has essentially abandoned development of HA-1A.

Earlier this month, Centocor initiated Phase III clinical trials onCentoRx for treating angina. This is the second clinicalindication for CentoRx, which is a monoclonal antibodydesigned to bind to surface receptors on blood platelets (theGPIIb/IIIa receptors), thus preventing the aggregation andclotting that can lead to blood vessel closure. The company hasalready completed a Phase III clinical trial of CentoRx fortreating patients with coronary artery disease at high risk forcomplications following angioplasty; it intends to file a productlicense application (PLA) for this indication with the FDA thisyear.

Centocor's stock closed unchanged on Tuesday at $7.63 a share.

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